Thursday, September 23, 2010

All Day Q&A

I'm changing up Q&A this time—today I'll be answering questions in comments. I'll be around all day just waiting for comments. So if you're dying to ask me something, now is your chance for a fairly quick response! How...exciting. It's exciting, right? Or not. Maybe?

Okay, now I'm a little nervous, like those writers who sit at Costco with their books, waiting for someone to stop by but everyone's too busy sampling the food. Seriously, go there at around lunch for a free meal. Good times.


  1. What's your thought(s) on Outlining versus Sitting Down and Writing? And do you know where one may find helpful outlining advice?

  2. knickers: necessity or accessory?

    baby names: what is one that you love that your hub doesn't?

    colors: do you feel yourself drawn to certain colors in your artwork?

    food: what is a favorite comfort food?

  3. do you use any type of software program while writing? (i.e. scrivener or something similar)?

  4. Jamie, I'm not a huge outliner, as in I don't outline a story from start to finish before I sit down and write. I do make notes as I go, and sometimes jot down ideas for where I think the story will go next.

    I think outlining is great for those who like it, but it doesn't work for me. Like most of my advice, I'm gonna say do what works for you!

    Unfortunately, I don't have a good source for outlining advice, since it's not my style.

  5. Hi! I just wanted to ask, how are you?

  6. Cindy,

    If by knickers you mean underwear, then yes, NECESSITY.

    Baby names: I've always liked Luke and Nick really, really doesn't.

    Colors: Not so much in my artwork, but definitely in my clothing! Since having red hair, I shop with that in mind. It has to go with my hair! I tend towards purples, teals, blues, greens. I've fallen in love with mustard yellow—a color I COULD NOT wear when I was blond.

    Food: Oh man, I love food, you know that. One of my favorite treats is a bento box at my local Japanese restaruant—comes with sushi, gyoza, rice, miso soup, and I usually get tempura for the main box:)

  7. Abby, I use Word, though I have been hearing a lot about Scrivener and how it would supposedly change my life. Maybe someday I'll fork out the money—I'm stingy.

  8. Okay, so seriously-how do you not go insane as a writer? It's like some idiot sat down and said, "Hey, how can we most effectively drive someone crazy?" and the answer was the publishing industry.

    Also, I vote that the recipe to the answer to Cindy's food question gets posted too. :)

  9. Annie, you just have to accept the insanity:) Don't worry, it's FUN. You get to blame any of your craziness on writing, basically giving you a FREE PASS to do whatever you want!

    Use it. You will like it.

    I do have a pretty good gyoza recipe—I'll think about posting it;)

  10. So, of all the writing advice you ever received, which has been the most helpful, the advice that really changed your outlook or inspired you?

  11. Stephanie, one piece of advice that really sticks with me is from Julie Halpern. She did an interview for me and said this:

    "If you like what you write, someone else will like it, too."

    I really needed to hear that, because I write weird stuff and sometimes it feels like I'll never find a place for it. But hearing that gave me strength. I DO like what I write, and I can't change it even if it is a little different.

  12. I have to admit, that's about the best kind of advice to get. I have the same "problem."


  13. Have you ever attended a "write-in"? (I have NaNoWriMo on the brain; a friend and I are the official "leaders" or MLs for our region this year and I get to find places for the write-ins :) )

  14. Team vampire or Team werewolf?

    Team unicorn or Team fairy?

    (You've probably mentioned this somewhere but I don't know it) Team Gale or Team Peeta?

    Team Harry/Hermione or Team Hermione/Ron?

    (Obviously the latter two is based on the assumption that you're not picking a team solely based on how the story actually turned out)

    I think I'll stop now. Mustn't get too greedy. Though if you wanted to tell us WHY you're for certain teams, I wouldn't stop you! :-)

  15. Thanks for the great blogs and tweets.
    My Q is...
    Are people who are familiar with your novel the wrong ones to critique your query letter? Does their knowledge of the whole story make them miss things about your description that are vuage or don't flow?
    Or are they the best ones to do it because they know if you are capturing the story best?

  16. Inthewritemind, no, I've never attended one! But that sounds like fun. Good lucking planning!

  17. Sangu,

    Team vampire or Team werewolf?
    I actually adore a good vampire tale, though I did get a tad burned out at one point. (Totally love Vampire Knight!)

    Team unicorn or Team fairy?
    Love fairies! Creepy and cute, big and small, winged or not.

    (You've probably mentioned this somewhere but I don't know it) Team Gale or Team Peeta?

    Team Harry/Hermione or Team Hermione/Ron?
    I was rooting for Ron and Hermione from the beginning:) I'm a sucker for the love/hate relationship.

  18. One more Q for you....
    Book opens in a dream = you will never get an agent that way, revise it now! Or = whatever works for what you want to say.
    Have heard it is definite bad thing, but still??
    What's your take?

  19. Haha your answer to #3 is hilarious. So true, though I was always partial to Gale.

    I always rooted for Harry and Hermione, but I do find the Ron/Hermione dynamic charming in the latter books.

    Thanks for the Q&A, this is fun!

  20. Julie, I think it's good to have a mix. My beta readers read my query to make sure I captured the voice, but I also had people unfamiliar with the story crit it for clarity.

    Voice is super important, though. I think we underestimate how much that catches an agent.

  21. Julie, I don't think it's so much the dream that's bad, but whether or not your take on it is cliche.

    Agents read A LOT of stories—they see patterns and repetition we can't possibly see.

    But take WAKE by Lisa McMann. She basically starts with a dream, and she's a bestseller. The difference? She brought a new spin to it and it worked.

    I think you can do anything you want, but you have to but a new spin on it. Your voice has to shine through it.

  22. What is your weapon of choice for the following situations:

    1. Assassination
    2. Medieval army vs army combat
    3. Modern guerrilla warfare

  23. Nick, first off I love you.

    1. I like the idea of a poisoned needle. Something small and deadly and easily portable. (Kinda like Fiona used to carry around.)

    2. I love me some big old catapults and trebuchets...

    3. Isn't the AK47 like the must have? So reliable, right? I like reliable.

  24. Why do you have to be so far from Boston? I totally want to hang out with you, and there's a lovely low-cost sushi place near where I live.

    How would you suggest I stay focused and motivated to work during my daughter's nap time, when I really kinda want to just lie down next to her? Coffee/tea is not an option, I don't drink either.

  25. As a fledgling YA writer, how do I sort through the masses on info on the internet to find volunteer beta readers? Would it be a good idea to include a few people who have an affinity for other genres or stick to YA?

    Thank you for your time!

  26. Loved your answers about deadly warfare. Sneaky, sly, and pound-em-dead. ;)

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. Hey Natalie!!

    Hmm, let's see:

    1) do you think it is harder to get published in YA if you are writing a contemporary/realistic book as opposed to fantasy/paranormal?

    2) What was the best thing you did to really raise your blog presence?

    3) If you have a few favorite agents you would like to work with, do you suggest sending it to them first, or sending it to others in case they give you revision notes?

    4) do you suggest sending your work to an editor or book doctor, in particular if this is your first book, even after critique groups, BEFORE sending to agents?

    5) Favorite Color?

    6) Saved by the bell or Full House?

    7) Favorite hidden talent? (Mine is playing Mary had a little lamb on the telephone... 9, 8, 7, 8, 999 . . . )


  29. CKHB, I don't know! Boston should be closer to me. Alas.

    I don't drink coffee or tea either, so I'm just the person to ask! Um, I would say give yourself rewards. Maybe, like, work for 30 mins, and then after that if you still want to lay down go for it. If not, keep working.

    No reason to work TOO hard. Really, naps are good. I get lots of good ideas when I'm relaxing:)

  30. Chezbay, I have a lot of posts on beta reading under my reference tab if you want a more detailed answer. But I would say having YA writer is helpful but not necessary. And sorting through the info is hard, but try to find people you connect with and trust.

  31. Rachel, wow, you got me working today!

    1. I have no clue. Really. I think maybe agents would know more than I would. I honestly don't keep track of what's selling because it drives me into that icky place I don't like to be.

    2. Also, um, no clue? I just blog about stuff. I did notice a considerable uptick when I announced getting an agent, and it's been steadily climbing since then. Also, I guess Twitter has been helpful in getting my posts seen. Other than that, I'm not sitting here scheming on how to get readers—I just write what I want to and hope people like it! If not, whatevs.

    3. I would suggest making your book the best possible so you don't have to get revision notes. Trust me, revision notes are HARD and emotionally draining. I would say maybe send it to one favorite at a time? It's hard to say. No matter how you do it you'll wish you'd done it differently, heh.

    4. I am not a proponent of the editor/book doctor thing, but that's mostly because I'm dirt poor. There are so many FREE resources out there, I encourage looking into those first. But if you have the cash and think it would help, then by all means go for it.

    5. Orange. And green. And purple and blue. I'm a fan of color—an artist!—it's awful to make me pick.

    6. Both, way more of a fan than I should have been...Go lame 90s television!

    7. Ummm, creating extremely awkward silences?


  32. What do you think about writing classes? Have you ever taken any? I'm in one right now and I have to say that I'm not quite sure it's been that helpful. Maybe it's just this class. But I also think that everyone has their own way of doing things and the best way to learn is lots and lots of practice. Wait, did I just answer my own question? I still want your thoughts!

  33. RSJ, I really do think it depends largely on the teacher. I only took one creative writing class in college, and more than anything it got me writing consistently. I'm not sure I improved, but the consistency was a good thing!

    I think more than anything classes are great for more of the peripheral things about writing—it's a great place to connect with others, to discuss and explore, to get practice. Depending on the teacher, I think you can have a chance to improve as well.

    So I say if the opportunity is there, go for it. But if it's not you don't have to feel bad.

  34. For Jamie (in the first comment on outlining), check out It's a nice visual synopsis of different outlining methods. I'm not an outliner but I saw the index card system in action and am tempted to try it.

    For Natalie, all of the advice out there seems to be that you need to find a genre that you excel in and work from there. What do you do if you want to publish in several (very different) genres? How does that work with agents, publishers, etc?

  35. Sierra, thanks for the link! Yay!

    As for genres, I would say if you want to write in a lot of different ones to give yourself time. You can't break into all of them at once, of course. Focus on one, but don't throw the others out either. Over time you might be able to work your way around, but so much of that depends on lots of different variables.

    For now I'd say don't worry about it. Write what you like! The rest will work out eventually.

  36. Thanks Natalie! Not trying to create too much work for ya :-) You asked for questions and these were the ones on my mind . . . especially the Full House question. No one talks about that show anymore but every time I think about it every time I watch How I Met Your Mother, and hear Danny Tanner's voice in the beginning.

    Its been fun following the Q&A, thanks for doing it!

  37. My question is a convoluted hypothetical situation, but my brain likes to make up stupid scenarios to worry about when I am working on a WIP, and won't shut up until someone else gives me some advice...


    So, common wisdom says we make a list of agents we like and a separate list of a few "dream" agents. And then when we query, we sent a query letter to a few from each list. This gives us a good feel for how well our query letter is working.

    So...under this hypothetical situation, what if I query an agent I like, and they offer representation, but I haven't queries an agent I LOVE yet?

    I know, terrible problem to have. But STILL! What if my dream agent would have represented me, if I had only queried them? But I don't want to query them first thing in case the letter needs some tweaking.

    Also, how do you know if it's your query letter that needs tweaking or if the agents just aren't interested in your book?

    I know you can't really answer this question, because it depends on so many other factors, not to mention my temporary insanity. I tend to worry about the lamest things, but I can't stop myself until I get some sane person to give me a logical answer.

    So. Any advice on querying a variety of agents you could offer would be most appreciated. Thank you so much for doing this Q and A! I wish you lived closer too!

  38. Elizabeth, don't worry, we all freak out about that stuff! Sooo been there.

    But here's the thing: You don't actually know who your "dream agent" is. I mean, sure, you can do a lot of research and find agents you really like, but you don't actually know if those agents are right for YOU.

    More than anything, it's about finding an agent whose style fits your own. And it might surprise you who that ends up being!

    Like, I know my agent has a huge online presence and a lot of people think he must be amazing. And he IS, don't get me wrong. But working with him, I know that some writers would not like his style. What I love about his process others might hate.

    You can't idealize certain agents. They really are just people, and it's about finding a good fit.

    As for knowing whether it's your query or your book, I would say if you're getting ZERO response on your query that's likely the problem. If you are getting requests for partials but no more, then that would likely be an issue with your book.

  39. Thanks Natalie! You're absolutely right of course. I just worry I won't know if the agent offering representation is "the one" or not. How did you know you wanted Nathan to represent you?

    BTW, the Happy Writer's Society has been great for my little neuroses, so thanks for that as well!

  40. Elizabeth, I had the "blessing" of working with him for almost 9 months months before he offered representation, so I had a pretty clear idea that we worked well together!

    But I think the first time I felt that "connection" was his first editorial letter, so to speak. His suggestions were so spot on they got me *excited* to revise. I felt like he really understood what I was trying to do, not taking over my work but making what I had better.

    When an agent comes knocking, I think it's important to ask a lot of questions and not jump the gun. Harder than it sounds, but worth it.

  41. Natalie - I'm not a natural outliner. I tried this time, I really did, but could only get so far before I had to just write. Now I'm 90% done, but have all these little plot threads dangling, and I feel like the more I write the more tangled up it gets. Do you have a way you sort through plot strands and make it all come together in the end? Bulldog through? Index Cards? Superpowers?

  42. -Kaname or Zero?
    I myself, prefer Kaname.
    -Favorite season?
    -Top four places you would most like to visit.

    Also, Boston is totally awesome. You should definitely visit there sometime.

  43. ooh, one more, favorite historical figure.

  44. Mystery Robin, I mostly clean up in revisions. Plot is the first thing I focus on in revisions, and sometimes it can take me several to clean up all those threads, as you say.

    I wish I had specific directions, but sometimes that's just how it is with first drafts. You have to try things—sometimes they don't work out and you have to fix it later. That's okay! Finish the story, THEN decide what's important and what can go.

  45. Akari, right now I'm a fan of Zero, but I haven't seen the whole series so I can't say for sure! I'm about 14 episodes in, so not very far! But it's such a beautifully animated show. *Sigh*

    Top four places: New Zealand, Japan, France, and...uhhh, I don't know. Hmm, I guess England?

    Historical Figure: That's a hard one, maybe Helen Keller. I did a report on her in like third grade and I still think she's an amazing lady. She did so much for the deaf/blind.

  46. Reading through your previous answers just now. Would you feel comfortable talking about Nathan's process? Or at least what it is about his process that you love?

    Or is it just that he gets your work :-)

  47. Hey Natalie, this isn't so much a question as a suggestion-- if you're avoiding coffee and tea because of the caffeine, try a great Japanese alternative: Mugi-cha! It's tea made from barley, it's naturally caffeine-free, and I swear it's the national summer drink of Japan (although I like it both hot and cold).
    You should be able to find it (in convenient bags, just like tea) at any Japanese grocery.

    I had fun reading your Q&A's today! :-)